Latin America must seek its full incorporation into the digital revolution, in the face of which it runs the risk of being left on the sidelines, with its eyes fixed on the Atlantic, rather than allowing the “virus of authoritarian temptation” to increase in the region.
This was expressed last Tuesday by former Ibero-American presidents who participated in the VI Presidential Dialogue, which was organized by the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA) and which for the second consecutive year was held virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Digitization “is the greatest technological revolution that has been known in history,” said former Spanish head of government José María Aznar, who added that “never has human beings had so many opportunities, but they have never been so vulnerable, so manipulable”.
In this revolution, “one of the great contingencies of this century” and which is far ahead of politics, Aznar pointed out that truth and knowledge are at risk from the prevalence of algorithms.
With digital technology responsible for 15% of the world’s gross domestic product, and which is estimated to exceed 24% by 2025, the former head of the Spanish Government warned that in today’s world the weight of power falls on the regions that control the digital revolution.
In this scenario, he added, Latin America must find its place and “this leads it to the Atlantic space”, where democratic institutions predominate. Failure to do so, he opined, runs the risk of being left out of the digital revolution.
“Let’s not think that we have guaranteed democracy”, Aznar concluded, after referring to the use of digital technologies in countries with dictatorial governments such as Cuba, Venezuela or Nicaragua.
The former head of Government of Spain was the one who presented the first of the two panels scheduled in this forum, which is usually held at Miami Dade College (MDC) in this Florida city, also organizer of the event and who was in charge of the virtual broadcast.
This event, which starts with the premise of “an Atlantic identity for freedom in the digital age”, also featured Laura Chinchilla, former president of Costa Rica, who lamented the “irrelevance” in which, by its own demerits, Latin America has been falling in the international context in recent years.
She highlighted the “obvious” benefits that digital technologies bring and, in terms of risks, pointed to the European regulatory model, which is “grounded in fundamental democratic values”.
“We have missed all the trains of all industrial revolutions”, said the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, who emphasized that the Latin American region cannot afford to be left behind in digitization, the so-called fourth industrial revolution.
The head of the OAS, in charge of closing the event, pointed out that the digital revolution has shown its benefits for representative democracy in Latin America, where there are an estimated 654 million users of social networks, but it also entails negative aspects such as fake news, against which we must fight to “defend common values”.
“This post-Covid era requires a generation of leaders who seek balance points and avoid polarization”, said Almagro, who opted for “rethinking the social contract with human solidarity as the organizing principle.”
They have been part of the sixth edition of this forum that addresses “important global and hemispheric events,” according to the organization, former presidents JamilMahuad, from Ecuador; Jorge «Tuto» Quiroga, from Bolivia, and Álvaro Uribe, from Colombia.
Likewise, the ex-presidents Mauricio Macri, from Argentina; Luis Federico Franco, from Paraguay; Eduardo Frei, from Chile; Andrés Pastrana, from Colombia; and Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, from Costa Rica.
They were joined by the Foreign Minister and Vice President of Colombia, Marta LucíaRamírez, the Emeritus Professor of the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) José Rafael Herrera and the Nicaraguan Enrique Bolaños, rector of the Central American Institute of Business Administration (INCAE).
At the start of this forum, AsdrúbalAguiar, executive director of IDEA and visiting professor at the MDC, recalled the validity of the Madrid Declaration on Growth in Freedom with which he closed last year’s edition of the V Presidential Dialogue, which had as its title “Latin America: Now or Never”.
With the concepts of “Institutionality” and “democracy” among the most alluded to by the participants, the event highlighted that current trends are accelerating and are global in nature, and therefore Latin American countries must ensure “a destination of governability and governance in the 21st century”.
The forum, also organized by the Atlantic Institute of Government, analyzes how “Latin America, with an agenda based on the protection and respect for democracy, freedom, economic and institutional stability, and individual rights and freedoms will make use of digital technology to achieve regional growth”.